Changes to the Current Planning System – Things to look out for A Ward Hadaway Briefing for NHC Members

The Government’s white paper Planning for the Future has garnered much attention, but a second consultation, Changes to the Current Planning System, was released on the same day and proposes more immediate changes that, if approved, could be implemented before the end of the year through amendments to national planning guidance or by way of a written ministerial statement. Here, Carolyn Akerman, a solicitor working in the Property Team at Ward Hadaway, highlights some of the key issues you should be aware of.

  1. Changes to the Standard Methodology for housing need.

In order to meet the Government’s target of 300,000 homes a year, the new baseline will be the higher of 0.5% of existing housing stock or the latest projected average annual household growth over a 10 year period.

  • Using the proposed standard methodology many areas in the North will have a target less than their recent delivery. It is projected that only 50,000 new homes a year would be required under the new proposals being only 15% of the proposed national figures despite a quarter of England’s total population residing in the region. A more proportionate figure for the North would be 75,000 new homes a year.
  • The baseline can now be adjusted downwards for the first time if affordability is not an issue in that particular area which is likely to be a particular issue for the North as compared with other regions.
  • This should raise questions over whether and how these reductions in house numbers will impact on planning for growth or aspirations for growth.
  1. Small Sites Threshold

Currently sites of 9 dwellings or less are exempt under the NPPF from being required to provide affordable housing. It is proposed that this small site exception is extended= to sites delivering either up to 40 or 50 homes as a temporary measure for 18 months. The increase is not proposed for designated rural areas.

  • This could be detrimental for Registered Providers who rely on an affordable housing stream secured through such smaller sites. The consultation estimates an overall annual reduction of affordable housing delivery of 10-20% if the threshold is raised to 50.

 First Homes Delivery

First Homes are intended to be sold at a minimum of 30% discount to first time buyers whose annual income is less than £80,000 (outside of London) and ideally who have a local connection.

Further to the publication of the responses to the First Homes Consultation, the government is pressing ahead with the scheme and intends for a minimum of 25% of all affordable housing units secured through developer contributions to be First Homes to be sold at a minimum discount of 30%. Local Authorities would not be able to reduce this minimum but could increase it.

  • There is a real risk that First Homes could replace existing home ownership products, in particular shared ownership. For example, if a local policy requires 20% Shared Ownership Units (SOU) with the remainder of the affordable housing units being affordable or social rent, then the 25% priority will replace the SOU delivery.
  • Thought also needs to be given to the potential for First Homes to eliminate the provision of affordable home ownership products for those who would not qualify for First Homes for example because they are not first-time buyers.
  • Further thought should also be given in respect of 100% affordable housing sites which may currently receive grant in respect of the entire site as it is unclear whether grant funding will be available in respect of First Homes and those RPs who are not accustomed to delivering discounted sale products may need the support or participation of third parties when it comes to delivery of those units.

The consultation for Changes to the Current Planning System ends on 1 October 2020, if you would like to share your views on the document please do so by email to

Ward Hadaway will give an opening briefing and be available to answer questions at a joint meeting with the Northern Housing Consortium for members looking at the full Planning for the Future White Paper consultation (deadline 29 October 2020). For more information and to confirm your attendance please do so following the below link:

Planning White Paper – NHC & Ward Hadaway Briefing and Consultation

Wednesday 14th October, 10.00 – 11.30, online via Microsoft Teams

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